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Copyright 2005 IGN Entertainment, Inc.
September 10, 2005
World Series of Poker Review (Xbox)
There are many debates in the sports world, and one that I took
part in focused on the notion that bowling was not a sport, and
ergo, should not be on ESPN. The large men, strange and smelly
shoes, and abundance of beer didn’t fit the mold I had in
my head of a sport. I want to see larger than life men (preferably
not in the waist), facing off on a field, fighting like dogs for
an ultimate goal. Then, I saw the light. I turned on my television,
flipped over to ESPN, and saw a poker match taking up valuable
airtime. At first confused, I slowly realized that poker is indeed
a valid sport. There is strategy, players, and certainly winnings.
Time has moved on, and poker
has invaded our everyday lives, spreading from local bars and
Tuesday night games, to invading TV and the Internet. With such
a large fan base, it was only a matter of time before the videogame
world felt the impact. That day is now, as the first officially
licensed game of the World Series of Poker is out to bluff us
all out of some hard earned coin. It’s title? Appropriately,
World Series of Poker.
Developed by Activision, World Series of Poker players will be
treated to a few different types of gameplay modes upon booting
up the title. Throughout each style of game, the same types of
card games are played. These include Texas Hold ‘em, Omaha,
Omaha High Low, Seven Card Stud, and Razz Poker. The main modes
of play are:
Quickplay: As the title implies, this option lets players hop
into a game of their choice. There is no setting up of options;
the goal is simply to have fun. Pick a style of game, a character,
and start dealing. Players can also practice with each card game
and see what they have to offer, and for those players new to
poker, the instruction manual provides a nice breakdown of each
Career: For those single player gamers, not interested in the
multiplayer options the title offers, this is where the heart
of the game lies. Players can take part in the World Series of
Poker tournament, and have ten years to earn as many WSOP championship
bracelets as the can. The main goal? To earn a spot in the World
Series of Poker All Stars.
Multiplayer: Along with supporting System Link on the Xbox, World
Series of Poker also lets up to nine players take part in online
matches and tournaments, where it is time to take the skills learned
in the offline world, into the online jungle.
Raking in the win.
Played primarily from a top view looking down at the table, players
have a viewpoint of several things happening in the game. The
only thing visible in regards to other players is their names
and chip count. When playing with the computer AI, players shouldn’t
expect a well-matched game every time. It seemed there were a
few occasions when the computer (or myself) would receive the
exact card needed several times in a row. While fun at first,
the single-player experience is mixed when it comes to the AI.
While there are no platforms to jump, tricky ledges to traverse,
or precise aiming to be done in World Series of Poker, the controls
are still great, relying heavily on the thumbstick for a large
portion of the control. While the pace of the game is up to the
player, it is nice when controlling bets and other gameplay aspects
is second nature. The breakdown of the controls is as follows.
Up = All In
Down = Fold
Left = Check/Call
Right = Bet/Raise.
Left trigger – Game Stats
Right trigger – Poker Hand Rankings
A button – Confirm
X button – Show Cards (Multiplayer Only)
Players do have some say when it comes down to the options of
the game, and are left with a few items that can be tweaked with.
The speed of the game (which is quite fast for those just starting
with the title), the ticker display, maximum amount of times a
player can raise, and the players seat at the table are all customizable.
Adding some strategy to an already tactical game is the introduction
of collectable chips players can acquire during their time in
the game. By performing specific requirements, such as how many
people a player has taken out, to how many tables won, and how
well of a winning streak a player has, gamers will be rewarded
with a variety of chips. While plentiful, and fun to collect,
these add to the gameplay by unlocking new features, such as being
invited to specific online tournaments.
Being an officially licensed game of the World Series of Poker,
players would only expect their favorite players to show up and
steal their money away. Well hand over those chips now, as at
one point or another during the game players will run into over
ten top WSOP players, including; Chip Jett, John Phan, Chris “Jesus”
Ferguson, and “Minneapolis” Jim Meehan. Beat a top
player, and they become a playable character. But who wants to
play some boring ‘ol pro, right? A surprisingly deep feature
included in WSOP is the same create a character mode seen in THUG.
Gamers can customize their own player; with options ranging from
the traditional hair, skin, and facial type, down to articles
of clothing and voice type. As a side not, any players logging
on might want to go easy on the gentlemen character in the pink
hanky, and lovely purple slacks and shirt ensemble. My skills
are still a bit rough.
Up to nine players can log on to Xbox Live and take part in matches
with World Series of Poker, and the results are a mixed bag. With
the extensive character creation mode, the chances of running
into a repeated character model are slim, which is great. There
is leaderboard support, so players can manage their online bankroll,
losses, hands won, and other statistics, and let’s face
it; there is no comparison between playing against computer AI
and the real thing. Ultimately, players will spend the majority
of their time with this title in the online world, but there is
one red flag to be noted. During a match, if the host of the game
loses, or just decides to leave, the game will automatically end
itself. Particularly frustrating during a great game, it is only
avoidable by playing in a match headed up by a player willing
to sit around and view what is happening, after their loss.
Graphically, World Series of Poker left me bewildered. I would
think that since the days of the SNES and Genesis, we’ve
moved beyond having cardboard cutouts as “audience members”
at sporting events. Featuring maybe two types of silhouettes,
expect a lot of faceless cutouts to watch in on a match. The character
animations during the game aren’t varied enough, with each
player using the same two animations time and time again.
Some of the character details are passable, with the pros not
looking too shabby, but some of the generic characters put in
to fill spots at the table have merely the essential parts to
resemble a polygonal human. Some of the different areas that the
matches take place in look decent, with a wide variety including;
Vegas, Hawaii, Tokyo, and World Series of Poker tables.
Don’t like annoying repetitious audio clips being played
over and over in your videogames? Well young gamer, this might
not be the title for you. With so few audio samplings to be spouted
out during a match (primarily “call”, and forms of
betting), the various voice samplings become very irritating.
Players will also need to rely on their own music (the title does
support custom soundtracks), as the only music to be found is
some horrific mix of upbeat techno/rock that plays during menu
There are a few bright spots in the ultimately grim audio helpings.
While not a hard noise to recreate, the ambient crowd effects
and shuffling of the cards sound good, and fans of the World Series
of Poker will be pleased to hear Lon McEachmem, commentator for
WSOP, announcing the games.
The Bottom Line
After the cards have been dealt, there is a lot more that could
have been done with the first officially licensed World Series
of Poker title. Hardcore poker fans will find more than enough
to meet their fix, but casual players looking to pick out just
one poker title should absolutely rent this game first. The computer
AI during the single-player is mixed, the graphics are just bad,
the audio is disappointing, and games ending suddenly on Xbox
Live make the inner poker player in me cringe. With more poker
titles coming down the hatch, World Series of Poker is not worth
a full purchase, at most a rental.
the World Wide Web on September 10, 2005:
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